Gautam Gambhir, who recently announced his retirement from all forms of cricket in the 2018/19 Ranji Trophy encounter between Delhi and Andhra at the Feroz Shah Kotla, has been awarded the Padma Shri on the occasion of Republic Day 2019. Gambhir, who played a crucial role in the Twenty20 World Cup win in South Africa in 2007 and in the 2011 World Cup at home, has been one of India’s grittiest openers and he was part of the side which scaled the summit in Test cricket during the 2009 season. Speaking to the host broadcasters Star Sports, Gambhir said he was not aware he was given the award. On commentary duties for the India vs New Zealand series, Gambhir said, “I was in the flight when I got to known I had gotten the Padma Shri. It is a great honour and the feeling is of immense pride.”
Along with Gambhir, there were seven other sportspersons who were awarded the Padma Shri. Sunil Chhetri, India’s inspirational football captain was also bestowed with this honour. Chhetri has helped Indian football register a turnaround and he also helped India break into the top 100 of the football world rankings a couple of years ago. Recently, during the AFC Asia Cup 2019, he helped India register a win after 55 years as he helped India beat Thailand but the side unfortunately missed out on a spot in the knockouts as they lost to Bahrain 0-1 by conceding a goal in the 91st minute.
The other prominent sports personalities who were given the Padma Shri were Harika Dronavalli, India woman chess Grandmaster, Table Tennis player Achanta Sharath Kamal and Bajrang Punia, ace wrestler. Sharath Kamal has been one of the legends of Table Tennis, winning gold in the 2006 Commonwealth Games singles edition and also winning the team gold in the 2006 Melbourne and recently in the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Sharath Kamal has also won the doubles gold in the 2010 CWG games which were held in Delhi while in 2018, he secured the silver and bronze in the doubles and singles category respectively.
Dronavalli, on the other hand, has consistently enjoyed a great run in women’s chess securing the bronze medal in a tough Women’s World Chess championship encounter in Tehran. Bajrang Punia, on the other hand, has enjoyed a golden 2018, winning gold in the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games. After securing silver in the World Wrestling Championships in Budapest, he secured the No.1 ranking in wrestling in the 65 kg category.
Ajay Thakur, the Kabaddi captain of the Indian team was also the recipient of the Padma Shri along with basketball player Prashanti Singh and Manipur’s Archery star Bombayla Devi Laishram.